I rarely write to you.
I know you don’t read my blog anyway, just like you never read my newspaper articles.
That’s ok. I’ve come to terms with that.
And in a way, I can only write this because I know you won’t read it. Yet, you’re the only one who could truly appreciate what I’m about to write. Others may see bits of themselves in it. But you lived it with me.
We almost hit the 14-year mark. Almost. Things were really over at 13. Let’s not lie. Maybe even before then.
The hardest bit is the giving up. Especially when you have trolls, usually the religious sort, who want to tell you how every marriage can be saved. That your divorce is a failure. It’s for lack of trying. Lack of character. Lack of will. These are generally the tight-lipped sort or the Pollyanna types. We didn’t follow the RULES, dammit, and so now we should be publicly flogged for it. I don’t follow that logic.
If for no other reason, for the two little beings that came out of what I tell them was a big love.
I know you don’t tell them this. I know you don’t say much nice about me at all. So be it.
I will continue to tell them it was a big love.
I was watching a movie tonight about Stephen Hawking. They sold it as a love story. Except I missed one key fact—Stephen Hawking and his first wife divorced. Some love story. A bit too close to home.
So I watched, on the screen, as two people who loved each other grew apart. I saw her growing resentment, his unhappiness.
And I was fine, really, until the last line of the movie. He looked at her as she gazed at their children and said, “Look at what we made.”
The tears flowed.
Because so many times, when I feel the ultimate sadness of what society calls a failure, what certainly feels like a failure–the collapse of our marriage–I have said the same thing to myself. Look at what we made.
It would be trite now, wouldn’t it, to wax poetic about our perfect children. I can’t stand it when people do that on Facebook—write public love notes to their “perfect” children.
So I won’t do that.
But a real look at what we’ve made? Well, we deserve that. Amidst all the sadness, joy. Consolation. Perhaps a meaning for all that transpired between us.
Let’s not put the burden for our entire relationship on our children. That’s too much. Let’s just say they were meant to be here. Or they wouldn’t be.
Our boys, one full of spitfire and the other with temperance running in his veins.
One who jumps in with both feet, not looking before crossing the street, not looking at the “proper” way to do it, just eager for the experience of it. Whatever “it” happens to be in the moment.
The other hesitant to try unless he shows instant mastery. Tentative and sensitive to the slightest criticism.
Look at what we made.
One who makes his mistakes publicly. Who has felt others’ scorn and disapproval, as well as their forgiveness, for those mistakes. And one who sees mistakes as faulty wiring.
Look at what we made.
We know the jumping in with both feet. Where that comes from. Mea culpa. Could we not have combined that with your incessant reading of steps 1 through 20a in any directions pamphlet?
And the faulty wiring perception. Do I not always say, “Make mistakes and often. Make them big.”? I do. I know I do.
One with a loyalty that exceeds reason and the other with a caring for those he loves that is well beyond his years. “Mommy, your hair sparkles in the sun. Like diamonds. It’s so beautiful.” At the age of three. And another who stuck by his best friend, even when that friend was ostracized for being the reason the entire class was held inside for lunch recess. I was insanely proud of him. He didn’t flee during the hard times.
We made one who likes speed, the great outdoors, roughing it, learning through doing. No desk job for that one. Who loves the scrappiness of lacrosse. Who makes his own way.
We made another who prefers the quiet life, books, five-star hotels, a room with a view. Cerebral. Who delights in fantasy and flight. Who makes his own way.
The point is, they are beautiful in their strengths and their challenges.
“He has a wonderful sense of humor and I love to see him use it in class.”
Yes, he does, doesn’t he? Look at what we made.
“His insights are well beyond his years. There is a lot of good thought going on in that small head.”
But of course. Look at what we made.
“Mrs. R, he just refuses to show the steps of his math problem. He can get the answer right but if he won’t show his work, I have to give him a lower grade.”
But Teach, look at what we made.
“If he wants more playing time, he needs more practice off the field. I’ve seen the fire in his belly. He has to apply it to the game.”
But Coach, look at what we made.
In the midst of our turmoil, I realized something huge. Most of this stuff doesn’t matter.
He can show his work or not. Get the A or not. Eat the whole-grain or the white bread.
It doesn’t matter.
We both model a work ethic. You model attention to detail and analysis. I model passion for what I do and the big picture.
We model our own values, different though they may be.
In the end, we are who we are. And they are who they are.
They’re going to take out of this what they take out of this. We can blah blah blah until we are blue in the face. Their lessons are theirs to learn. We planted the seeds. And we have high hopes. But at a certain point, our hopes do not matter.
Truly. Because, at the end, when any one of us is leaving this earth, what will matter is this—were they loved? Did we help them love in return?
And even when that love does not last, or transforms into something that does not stand the 20-year test, are they still standing when it’s done? Are they resilient? Creative? Engaged? On fire with a passion, quiet or not, for something outside of themselves?
Are they kind? Are they leaving this earth better than they found it?
We will have to live on into those answers. In the meantime . . .
. . . look at what we made.
Perhaps not a professional lacrosse player or a math professor. Instead, two well-loved boys. Who will make their mark on this world in their own time, in their own way.
Perhaps not 14 years. We didn’t make that either. But we did make a big love for longer than some. And we were strong enough to realize when that big love had run its course.
Some things in life are bigger than us. Bigger than that big love. Our challenges certainly were.
But so are our children.
Look at what we made.
And the tears come again.